It looks like mother nature hurled a horseshoe through the sky, forcing us to marvel in another one of her extraordinary but rare wonders.
The half-ringed-shaped cloud drifting across the atmosphere is a rare phenomenon, and lucky spectator Christy Grimes was able to document and share it on social media.
The National Weather Service shared Grimes's lucky shot, which was taken Thursday over Battle Mountain, Nevada.
One of the rarest clouds ever. This was taken over Battle Mountain, Nevada, USA on 8 March 2018. It's called a hor… https://t.co/IT3iLrwFMG— NWS Elko (@NWS Elko)1520612485.0
The horseshoe vortex cloud – the appellation given given by the Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS) – hovers in the sky for a brief moment before dissipating in minutes.
So what causes this mustache-shaped cloud to make an appearance?
According to the Farmer's Almanac, the cloud vortex forms "at the edges of horizontal cylinders of rapidly rotating air – essentially tornadoes tipped onto their sides," and the vortices are rendered from updrafts caused by super cell storms.
The Almanac points out that the outer edges of the cloud can appear to be spinning along when hit by horizontal winds.
The process is similar to what happens when you take the lid off a running blender before its contents have completely integrated. If you've ever gotten a face full of powdered sugar from the blender, you've seen the principle that creates a vortex cloud.
How does this form??? I need to do some research!!!! https://t.co/idIJA34o0a— Stephanie Abrams (@Stephanie Abrams)1520618889.0
Conditions like rising air and thermal lifting from the ground have to exist for the fleeting cloud formation, according to the CAS.
This air current also needs to encounter a crosswind overhead and a 'temperature inversion', which when the way that the air temperature changes with altitude acts as an invisible lid on the rising thermal. And the moisture and temperature conditions need to be just right too, so that a ribbon of cloud can form as the temperature drops within the spinning vortex of the rising air. Upon reaching the invisible ceiling, this ribbon of cloud tumbles back downwards. The result is an upside-down curve of twisting cloud that resembles a horseshoe before it disappears.
Twitter, however, is not easily swayed by the scientific explanation. They believe there is something more extraterrestrial involved.
@NWSElko @mollypriddy @mirikramer miriam i am NOT saying aliens but miriam— darth™ (@darth™)1520613841.0
@mollypriddy @darth @NWSElko https://t.co/xHpjCCPlg9— Miriam Kramer (@Miriam Kramer)1520614147.0
That's literally a UFO exhaust port. Don't lie to me. https://t.co/4IrVB7baBs— Governor of the Great State of Confusion (@Governor of the Great State of Confusion)1520660184.0
@StephanieAbrams https://t.co/p1kEIj1cKM— Derik (@Derik)1520619166.0
The NWS tried their best to comfort people with the facts.
(1/2) Hi Stephanie here's the explanation on how these clouds are formed. As the updraft pushes flattish cumulus cl… https://t.co/aGBr13bFq2— NWS Elko (@NWS Elko)1520619110.0
(2/2) As the vortex climbs, it's caught in the faster horizontal winds aloft,& the middle part of the vortex catche… https://t.co/r7yoXzhCUd— NWS Elko (@NWS Elko)1520619121.0
They didn't make a convincing enough case for everybody.
@NWSElko So then it is aliens....— Mr Texas (@Mr Texas)1520701387.0
But people were still obstinate about what they believe the phenomenon really is.
Hulk stopped in Nevada on his way to Clearwater https://t.co/Xztu2KvsOh— p h i x a t e d (@p h i x a t e d)1520644589.0
@NWSElko https://t.co/VPIAjZtnkm— Rïchård (@Rïchård)1520622130.0
omg god’s mustache fell off https://t.co/Blj2V8PATa— Julia Carrie Wong (@Julia Carrie Wong)1520613966.0
One saw a staple.
@NWSElko @NWSSeattle Looks more like a wire staple. https://t.co/tdr4ahQBpc— Dave Walde (@Dave Walde)1520616651.0
Nothing comes easy.
🎶 why d’you have to go and make clouds so complicated 🎶 https://t.co/BnuueqGopg— Peter Gao (@Peter Gao)1520665981.0
Grimes said the cloud was short-lived, but managed to take the photo before it disappeared in a minute. She told Buzzfeed, "I just decided to take some pictures to show everyone. I didn't think they would believe me."
She and her sister were both intrigued by the sight, they sent the photo to the NWS. "This was the first one I've seen like that," said Grimes.